Culturally, I think we’re in a pretty good space right now. Musical artists are finding new and creative ways to reassemble the old quarter notes and eighth rests. Books and movies? Heaps of stuff going on. Theatre? There are many exciting new plays that come out every year.
But my first love was and will always remain the musical, and it saddens me immensely to see that it is undergoing a prolonged and painful slump. Oh sure, American Idiot by all accounts is awesome, and ticket sales are finally boosting, and that new production of Mary Poppins is doing well. But when was the last time you heard about a brand new musical – with brand new, un-recycled music – that was wowing the theatre world? When was the last time someone actually did something original with the music and lyrics, and married it successfully with even a half-decent book? In the last ten years, I could probably count five.
Of course, what I just detailed is probably the main concern. A musical is a huge creative undertaking that probably scares the living bejeezus out of composition students. Bad enough trying to write the individual parts, but putting it together is massive. It’s probably something that no one wants to risk these days. Why not stick with the tried and true, instead of pushing for the uninitated and outre?
I can only hope this is a period of stagnancy, and not the beginning of a wretched death. It would be a shame indeed if the legacy of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber was relegated to the schlock currently produced.
Do you watch musicals, new or old?
- Jean AAR